Sunday, April 6, 2014
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer
All too often, we react to our own anxiety as if it were a parasite - something dangerous, something unwanted and definitely something that we want to avoid. However, evolutionarily speaking, anxiety is a healthy, adaptive and important emotion. Anxiety developed out of our species’ need to anticipate dangers in the environment to ensure our survival. If we keep in mind why anxiety exists and alter how we look at our own experience of anxiety, we can transform it from a dangerous and avoided emotion to one that we can embrace and accept in our lives.
Many people interpret their anxiety as if it were a red traffic light. When you notice strong feelings of anxiety, you slam on the breaks and immediately stop traveling in the direction you were traveling in. Sometimes, you even throw your car into reverse and retreat in the opposite direction. However, anxiety is truly the body’s built-in yellow traffic light. The emotional feeling of anxiety and the physical reactions that accompany it are your body’s way of saying “proceed with caution” or “look both ways before continuing.” Yellow stop lights exist to warn of potential dangers and to encourage attention, not to signal imminent threat or to tell you to go in a different direction.
Try to view your anxiety as this yellow light - your body’s way of telling you to pay a little more attention than usual. We tend to feel anxious in situations that matter - when we are on an interview, meeting people, calling a new therapist or in an unfamiliar situation. Our anxiety can also serve as a reminder to ourselves that we care about what is about to happen and, when embraced, can help us be more productive or goal-oriented. It is our avoidance of anxiety and our tendency to shift course when we feel anxiety that leads to long-term problems. Change the way you look at your anxiety, and the way you look at the rest of your life may just change.
Gillian Bush, Psy.D. is a Florida Licensed Psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety and eating disorders. Dr. Bush received her Masters degree from Teacher's College, Columbia University in New York, NY and received her Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She completed her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral residency at The Renfrew Center of Coconut Creek, a residential treatment facility for adult and adolescent women diagnosed with severe eating disorders. Currently, Dr. Bush is a private practitioner in Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach, Florida. For more information about Gillian click on her HelpPRO listing and/or go to her website.